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Hoosier worker injury and illness rates up slightly in 2021, but remain historically low

A woman wearing scrubs, gloves and a mask looks down at a bucket she has her hands in. Her scrubs have an Indiana University Health logo
FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks
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IPB News
Private health care and social assistance injury and illness rates also fell from nearly 7 out of every 100 in 2020 to less than 5 in 2021.

Workplace-related injuries and illnesses increased marginally in Indiana between 2020 and 2021, according to new federal Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses estimates.

Indiana’s 2021 rate of 3.2 injuries or illnesses among every 100 workers continues an eight-year streak of the rate being below 4 percent. That's a significant decrease compared to the earliest similar estimates in the 1990s when the rate was as high as 11 percent.

“While significant progress has been made to reduce the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in Indiana, there is still a lot of work to be done,” Indiana’s Department of Labor said in a report about the estimates. “For many years, the Indiana Department of Labor has worked

alongside Hoosier employers, safety and trade associations, and organized labor to identify and correct hazards, but also to change the culture inside Hoosier businesses.”

The department added workers should be encouraged to speak up about any hazards or potential safety issues and employers should be “diligent in addressing safety concerns the moment they arise.”

These are just estimates based on a survey of a portion of Indiana’s employers, not a full count. The Indiana Department of Labor distributes the survey and provides the data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the final estimates.

The BLS said these estimates likely underrepresent the actual numbers and rates of workplace injuries and illnesses nationwide but it is currently the best available data on the subject. The Bureau has identified several possible reasons for the undercounts to address, including “numerous disincentives for both employers and employees to report a workplace injury.”

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Indiana had the 11th highest number of estimated injuries and illnesses in 2021 at around 65,400 compared to the 45 other states and U.S. territories that participated in the survey. Not all states participate in the survey and those that do have to hit a target of survey responses to have their state-level results included.

The rate decreased for Indiana workers in certain industries. The Indiana Department of Labor pointed in a press release to the combined rate for mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction. That rate fell from 2.4 in 2020 to 2.2 in 2021.

However, the data shows the rate for mining on its own actually increased slightly from 2.2 to 2.5.

Private health care and social assistance injury and illness rates also fell from nearly 7 out of every 100 in 2020 to less than 5 in 2021.

But for workers in health care and social services run by the state government, the rate increased from 7.5 to 9.3.

Nationwide, “the health care and social assistance sector had the highest rate of respiratory illnesses in 2021,” according to a BLS analysis of the data. It is a lower rate than it was in 2020.

Contact reporter Adam at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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Adam is Indiana Public Broadcasting's labor and employment reporter. He was born and raised in southeast Michigan, where he got his first job as a sandwich artist at Subway in high school. After graduating from Western Michigan University in 2019, he joined Michigan Radio's Stateside show as a production assistant. He then became the rural and small communities reporter at KUNC in Northern Colorado.